Fee hikes eyed to offset sewer costs in Clayton

A seagull flies over the St. Lawrence River in October near the Washington Island Causeway in Clayton. The village wants to upgrade the sewage treatment plant nearby on Gardner Street and expand the sewer system capacity to prevent sewage dumps in the St. Lawrence River.

CLAYTON — Sewer system upgrades expected to prevent sewage discharges into the St. Lawrence River could cost individual users as much as $170 more annually unless the village secures more grant funding.

The pump station abutting the St. Lawrence River on Riverside Drive has overflowed during periods of heavy rainfall, and whatever water and sewage that department workers cannot haul discharges into the river.

Water and Wastewater Operations Manager Megan Ervay said the last overflow in the village occurred in April 2018 when 148,000 gallons discharged from the Riverside Drive pump station, although workers prevented another 137,000 gallons from entering into the river.

At the same time, 1,700 gallons were discharged from the Union Street pump station, but workers hauled 62,000 gallons from it.

The estimated $8.83 million project is expected to more than double the sewer system’s capacity, and thus reduce sewage overflows and subsequent violations. Matthew J. Cooper, senior managing engineer for Barton & Loguidice, Watertown, said eliminating combined sewer overflows is part of the village’s control plan, which is a state Department of Environmental Conservation permitting requirement.

The village has secured a $2.2 million grant for the project, but if it cannot garner more funding support, sewer users can expect to pay up to another $170 in annual fees to finance the other $6.63 million, Mr. Cooper said. The best-case scenario would be an increase of $70 after securing additional grants.

“I think it’s critical for compliance with the permit and it’s in the best interest of the community by safeguarding a natural resource that it relies heavily on for tourism,” he said.

The village’s sewer system supports an estimated 3,000 individuals inside and outside of the village, including the Cape Vincent Correctional Facility, Cedar Point and Heritage Heights.

A metered user in the village pays a fixed $324 per equivalent dwelling unit annually, plus $4.36 per 1,000 gallons; while a metered user outside of the village pays a fixed $405 annually, plus $5.45 per 1,000 gallons.

If project fees cannot be mitigated with additional grant funds, village users with meters could pay as much as $494 annually in fixed costs, while outside users with meters could pay as much as $575 annually in fixed costs. Anticipated costs are based on current estimates from Barton and Loguidice.

Mr. Cooper, however, said the village aims to secure a $5.5 million state grant and either grant or loan funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which could lower the costs.

“We have to keep the collection systems working. Some of this stuff is 100 years old,” said Mayor Norma J. Zimmer. “Improving infrastructure is improving the whole community.”

The sewer system improvement project includes upgrades to the treatment plant on Gardner Street before Washington Island, a larger force main connecting the Riverside Drive pump station to the plant and another larger sewer main connecting the plant to the Union Street pump station. Construction is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2020, when the roads are dug up during the state Department of Transportation’s road reconstruction in the village’s historic district, and conclude in 2021.

“We’re all really excited here at the sewer department,” Ms. Avery said. “It should help us handle additional flows from wet weather events and reduce violations.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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